COVID-19 Update: Information for Members
Updated as of June 15, 2020
Over the last few weeks, we have received numerous questions about how COVID-19 is impacting the Plan as well as requests for flexibility from those of you who are in the middle of transacting with us. We have compiled these Frequently Asked Questions that we hope you will find helpful. Given the continually changing circumstances, we will update this page frequently with new information as it becomes available.
Further, we have implemented operational changes to keep our visitors and employees safe while continuing to support members, employers and stakeholders. As a result, we will not be accepting member walk-ins. Our Contact Centre team is working remotely until further notice. While we continue to operate from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (EST) Monday to Friday, you may experience longer than average wait times. The quickest way to get answers to your questions is to access information here on omers.com and through our secure member portal . You can also send an email to .
At OMERS our responsibility to you is clear. We are committed to delivering against our pension promise to over 500,000 members and are taking all the right steps to make sure this happens.
Frequently Asked Member Questions
No, OMERS has not changed the payment date for retiree pensions. We made a promise to pensioners that they would receive a retirement payment from us on the first business day of every month and that has not changed. Pensions will continue to be paid on time. Our pension promise is very important, both to you and to us.
While your pension cheque will still be processed on time, we can’t control how quickly your mail will be delivered to you during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, given that most banks are operating on reduced hours and to help you with social distancing, we encourage all members who currently receive pension cheques by mail to make the switch to direct deposit through or by calling OMERS Member Services. Doing so will give you peace of mind that your pension will be deposited into your bank account by the first business day of every month.
For a July 1 pension start date, OMERS must receive completed applications by June 15, 2020 to ensure you receive your payment on July 1. Completed applications received after June 15, 2020 will be paid on August 1, retroactive to July 1.
Completed applications should include the following documentation:
Form 143 - Request for an OMERS Plan benefit (from the employer)
Your banking information; and
A signed election form or signed advanced waiver election form as applicable.
If you have any trouble providing documentation, please contact OMERS Member Services for assistance.
Currently, absences from work are treated differently, with some purchasable and others not.
Absences related to “Emergency Leave: Declared Emergencies and Infectious Disease Emergencies”
OMERS has reviewed the Plan provisions regarding leaves in the context of the recent amendments to the Employment Standards Act, 2000 and COVID-19. The newly established “Emergency Leave: Declared Emergencies and Infectious Disease Emergencies” is purchasable, with the member paying one times the cost of contributions, based on the member’s deemed earnings (in effect before the leave started). Therefore, if you are on an Emergency Leave: Declared Emergencies and Infectious Disease Emergencies, you would have the option of purchasing this leave (within the required deadlines) and pay your portion of the contributions, and your employer would match the contributions.
If an employee is on a temporary layoff (rather than an authorized leave of absence), this period is not purchasable.
Yes, now that the federal government has passed legislation to enact the changes to the minimum required withdrawal amounts, OMERS will automatically reduce the minimum withdrawal amounts for AVC Income Option members in June 2020. You do not have to apply to OMERS for the reduced minimum withdrawal amount to take effect. If you would like to make a withdrawal earlier, you can do so during the AVC withdrawal window which ends on April 30.
Yes. Given the challenging circumstances and the current realities for OMERS members, we will temporarily provide you with the ability to place buy-back payment plans on hold for a period of three months. At the end of this grace period, you will have the option to re-activate a new payment plan based on the outstanding principle cost using a new 12/24/36 month duration or alternatively, terminate the payment plan permanently. If a payment plan is terminated and you wish to purchase the remaining service in the future, the cost for the period will be recalculated based on the values at that time.
To help you understand the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re answering your questions through e-Learning modules. These quick and easy-to-use modules address topics such as , and .
Additionally, you can visit the new .
There, you’ll find resources, including health and wellness information from our Chief Medical Officer Dr. Aw, and inspirational stories from OMERS portfolio companies as well as our member and employer communities. We are also offering a program to keep in touch called OMERS Virtual Coffee Chats, where you’ll be able to connect with someone in the community over the phone.
A myOMERS account is not required to access the site.
Unfortunately, OMERS is not authorized to provide financial assistance (e.g., loans) to members. These services are available through a commercial financial institution.
You may wish to reach out to your financial institution to see what assistance they are able to offer you during this difficult time.
OSFI’s portability freeze, that came into effect on March 27, 2020, applies to federally registered private pension plans only.
As OMERS is a provincially registered pension plan, the portability freeze does not apply to and does not impact your OMERS benefit.
If under the circumstances you are waiting on a transfer of funds to OMERS from a federal plan, please contact that plan for further details.
You are only impacted by a reduction in work hours if your earnings are also reduced. If you are a continuous full-time (CFT) member whose earnings continue at 100% even if you work fewer hours and receive paid leave for the unworked hours, then your pay is uninterrupted. In this case, your employer would continue deducting OMERS contributions for CFT credited service and there is no impact to you.
If, however, you are a CFT member who is temporarily working less and receiving less pay during the COVID-19 pandemic, the period of temporary reduced hours and pay would be reported as an authorized leave.
As an authorized leave, you can purchase the unworked days at two times contribution cost to recover up to your CFT contributory earnings and credited service, when you return to their permanent work schedule.
Please note that eligibility for offering and purchasing a period of reduced pay is limited to members who have a minimum 36 months of employment.
Top-up payments to Employment Insurance benefits are not considered to be amounts received on a regular and recurring basis (i.e., these payments are temporary) and are therefore excluded from contributory earnings.
A temporary layoff does not impact the calculation of pensionable earnings. Your pensionable earnings are based on contributory earnings for the 60 months of consecutive credited service during which the contributory earnings are the highest. As there is no credited service (or contributions) during a period of temporary layoff, the credited service before and after the layoff is considered continuous and used for the purposes of determining pensionable earnings. In other words, the pensionable earnings will not include a period of $0 contributory earnings for the period of temporary layoff but rather, the absence will be ignored.
OMERS remains a defined benefit pension plan, focused on paying predictable monthly incomes to its members in retirement. This has not changed, even with the global pandemic situation. Our pension promise is very important, both to you and to us.
While we are not immune to current market conditions, your OMERS pension is built for the long run. You can be certain that OMERS team of expert investors worldwide has been taking specific measures over the last several years to help safeguard our portfolio as much as possible for events just like this one.
From an investment perspective, we remain focused on long-term returns. You should have confidence that our high-quality portfolio and highly capable and experienced team will continue to take steps to deliver on our pension promise.
OMERS continues to operate under the regular monthly pension payroll cycle. Pensions will continue to be paid on the first business day of the month and new pensions will commence on time if all of the required documents are received. Our pension promise is very important, both to you and to us.
1. Can I purchase the reduction in my earnings?
If your employer temporarily reduces your earnings but requires that you continue to work your regular CFT hours, the reduction in your earnings is not purchasable for OMERS purposes.
2. How does this temporary reduction in earnings impact my contributory earnings and credited service?
During this period, you will continue to make contributions based on your actual (reduced) pay and you will continue to accrue credited service. Your contributory earnings for this period will be based on your actual (reduced) earnings.
3. How does this temporary reduction in earnings impact my pensionable earnings?
Pensionable earnings are based on your highest 60 consecutive months of contributory earnings. In this case, because you are still contributing on your reduced earnings, these earnings will be included in your pensionable earnings if they are part of your highest 60 consecutive months of contributory earnings.
Recently the Ontario government announced it will be providing frontline staff with a temporary pandemic payment in recognition of the dedication, long hours and increased risk of working to contain the COVID-19 outbreak. Can pandemic payments be included in OMERS contributory earnings?*
These pandemic payments cannot be included in OMERS contributory earnings because they are temporary in nature (i.e., only payable over the next four months) and not part of the employer’s regular recurring compensation (i.e., salary and wages) for its employees.
*April 25, 2020, the province announced Pandemic Pay for eligible frontline workers from April 24 to August 13, 2020. This includes a $4/hour premium and a $250 lump-sum payment for those working more than 100 hours a month over the next four months.
OMERS is considering the impacts of this regulation on the administration of leave periods. We are working on updating the COVID-19 sites on omers.com to provide our members and employers more information on this regulation and its impacts.
NEW: The Ontario government has approved an emergency order that enables school board employees to be voluntarily redeployed to congregate care settings during the COVID-19 pandemic, including hospitals, long-term care homes, retirement homes, and women's shelters. As a school board employee, what are the pension implications (e.g., contribution deductions, service accrual) if I decide to be voluntarily redeployed?
The announcement from the Ontario government stated that voluntarily redeployed staff will maintain their employment relationship with the school board and will continue to receive their compensation and other employment benefits. During this temporary redeployment, you will continue to make contributions based on your actual pay and continue to accrue credited service. In other words, your OMERS pension will not be affected by the redeployment.
The announcement also mentions that you will be eligible for the provincial government's pandemic pay. These pandemic payments cannot be included in OMERS contributory earnings, as they are temporary in nature (i.e., only payable over the next four months) and not part of your employer’s regular recurring compensation (i.e., salary and wages).